Rick Fairless, Strokers Dallas: 'I would have cross-trained more'

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Rick Fairless, owner of Strokers Dallas, Top 100 dealer and Dealernews columnist, reflects on 2010.

Dealernews: What is your gameplan for taking on 2011? What specific changes are you making?
Fairless: Our game plan for 2010 is to continue in the direction we are going, but expanding and branching out to sell more and have a broader appeal. I plan to add more products and services aimed at a general audience, not specifically bikers. Bikers are people, so what do people need and want? I can sell things that aren’t specifically biker related and make more money that way (like I do with Converse).

We aren’t making any specific changes, but we plan to run more efficiently and run a leaner operation. We will watch what we are doing more carefully and make sure it is the best and most efficient way to get the job done.

DN: What missteps, if any, did you make in 2010?
Fairless: I didn’t take the downturn of the economy seriously enough. I waited too long to cut back.

DN: Based on those experiences, what are you going to do differently in 2011?
Fairless: Same as I said before, we are just going to keep watching things more carefully and closely. We have already pared down this year and have learned to do more with less, so we will take those lessons with us to 2011 and keep doing more of that.

DN: 2010 wasn’t a great year for most of our industry, but how did the market or economic conditions specifically affect you or your business?
Fairless: It shit on us. The economy didn’t do us any favors. We survived in spite of the economy. We struggled and got knocked down many times, but we kept getting back up and kept going. 2010 was the first time in company history that I had to cut employees’ hours back to less than 40 per week. I’ve never had to lay off people and in order to keep everyone on staff, we had to cut hours and salaries.

DN: What would you have done differently in 2010 if you had possessed a crystal ball?
Fairless: I wouldn’t have hired anyone new in 2009. I would have cross trained more current employees to be multi-functional and work in different departments so I can better utilize the core staff that I have rather than hiring extra people for smaller, more specific jobs.

DN: What did you do right in 2010?
Fairless: I took a few people and cross-trained them (just wish I would have done more of that). It helps because I can take a bartender who only works a couple of days a week in the bar and teach her how to work the front counter. Now when I’m short staffed and need extra help, she can step in. I also trained my driver to detail bikes. Now when he has a day off or isn’t doing a delivery, he can detail bikes for us. He makes some extra money and we make some extra money. It beats hiring out someone else and having to worry about keeping another person on the payroll.

I also worked hard to get a TV show. While only one season has aired so far, it was huge for us and our business. We get tourists and people from all over the country coming to visit us and meet me and my Ma. It has attracted business from outside the motorcycle industry who want to come buy t-shirts and burgers and whatever else from us.

DN: What would you add that we didn’t cover?
Fairless: 2010 taught us how to survive on less. We made cuts and adjustments and figured out how to get by while spending less. For 2011, we’re taking advice from the Texas Rangers (law enforcement, not baseball) and “We’re just gonna keep on a comin.”

More 2010 insights:
American Honda Motor Corp.
Eric Buell Racing
Victory Motorcycles
Yamaha